1. Meal Planning
Planning healthy meals for a family is a lot of work. Sometimes, the actual food preparation is the easy part. With different tastes, schedules, and dietary restrictions, staying creative and motivated in the kitchen can be a real challenge.
Planning ahead can make this a lot easier and more enjoyable. This year, put aside half an hour on a specific day and plan meals for the week. The plan can be as detailed or as loose you like, but it will help you when you are grocery shopping, planning meals and will also keep the grocery bill down – since you won’t be wasting food.
2. Family Night
Dedicate one night a week to your family. Sit down together and decide what that family night will look like – maybe it’s board games, a dinner out or renting a family movie. This is a great opportunity to spend time together as a family and enjoy each other. As a parent, it’s easy to get caught up in work that needs to be done and tasks that need to be completed. Taking time to enjoy one another will make your family stronger and provide you with wonderful memories when the kids are all grown up.
3. Money Management
There has been a lot in the news about money, debt and the global economic crisis. Help your kids learn about money early so they can avoid the mistakes many people make. Talk to your kids about credit ratings, credit cards, mortgages and investments.
Depending on their age, allow them to make some investments of their own, even if it isn’t with real money. If you need to cut back this year, involve your kids in that discussion, and empower them to help with the family budget. It’s a life lesson that will help them in the future – and help your pocketbook right now.
4. Give Your Time
Many charities and organizations need (wo)manpower, and this can be a great family activity. Volunteer once a month at the local food bank or help out at a soup kitchen or seniors’ home. Children will learn the importance of community and helping others and will also learn to better appreciate the things they have. Involve your family in the decision; let them do some research and find out what groups in your community might need a helping hand.
5. Focus on the Foundation
Whether raising your children with a partner or as a single parent, you need to take time to focus on the foundation of your family. For a couple that may mean making time for a date night or a chance for you to reconnect and spend time with just the two of you. If you are a single parent, make 2010 the year where you take some time for yourself. Take a class or join a group where you can meet and talk with other adults. Have a ladies night for you and your girlfriends, or make a lunch date with a good friend. It can sometimes feel like hard work to find a sitter, organize transportation and schedules and find the time – but it’s important. You work hard – you deserve a break.
6. Rethink the Family Calendar
Is your family calendar a sea of games, classes, schedules, demands and activities? Make this the year you re-evaluate your family activities. Maybe you decide each child chooses only one activity, or you cut back on driving by setting up a carpool.
Whatever you do, make a point of prioritizing and planning with your family.
7. Get Outside!
Our lives are lived behind doors, in cars, parking garages and under roofs. It’s entirely possible to avoid the outdoors for days at a time. This year, make getting outside a priority. Enjoy nature. Go for a walk, head to the beach, go tobogganing or head to the mountains for lunch. Getting outside is good for the soul and a great place to reconnect with yourself and your family.
8. Family Mission
Think of a family mission as like a business plan. It allows you to set goals and develop a plan to reach them. What are your values? What kind of life do you want to live? What are your priorities? Allow your children the opportunity to weigh in; you might be surprised what they come up with. When you have a direction everyone has agreed on, it’s much easier to address situations or behaviour that jeopardizes the family mission and get back on track.
9. Healthy Habits
Obesity is a worldwide epidemic; children are struggling with weight in unprecedented numbers. Make a commitment this year to your health and that of your family by eating well and getting exercise. If obesity is already an issue for your family, see your doctor and discuss ways you can make healthy changes. If you’re already healthy and active, stay that way! Keep your family moving by getting outside and staying active – it’s an investment in your family’s future.
As parents we are busy and often focused on much larger objectives, far off in the future. Kids live their lives here and now.
Their lives are full of little events and moments that can be opportunities to celebrate. Celebrate a winning basket, a great day at school or an act of kindness. Take the time to recognize achievements (and efforts) in your kids’ lives and in your own.
Celebrating teaches your children that every day is an opportunity for success and will help develop self-esteem and motivation. Most importantly, it feels good for everyone involved.